Living Well with Hearing Loss

Maximizing communication and improving the lives of individuals with hearing loss

Living Well with Hearing Loss - a Student's Perspective

The following was written by a Audiology Graduate student who is now completing his externship year and will graduate this Spring.

Moderating the Living Well with Hearing Loss class experience was a valuable learning tool.  As a graduate student working towards becoming a professional who works with hearing loss, I found Living Well with Hearing Loss valuable for the perspective it offers clinicians and patients outside of audiology clinic.  During the weekly classes, I was able to interact with individuals with hearing loss and their communication partners in a relaxed manner in an environment that focuses on trust and communication.  

During the Living Well with Hearing Loss sessions, the participants were able to express their experience with hearing loss, whether they or their communication partner was affected by hearing loss.  Many responses carried a common theme: breakdowns in communication.   Because communication of a spoken message is often a one-time deliverance, it can be frustrating for anyone who cannot understand the message, regardless of whether they have a hearing loss.  

The class, which focuses on group learning and group interaction, allows the participants with hearing loss and their frequent communication partners to learn about strategies to minimize these breakdowns in communication.  The participants learn about their hearing loss, the devices used to help with the hearing loss and communication strategies that may be helpful in those situations.  During the lessons, discussion and questions are encouraged and allows participants to ask clarifying questions.  Often, a communication partner is able to express a frustration to their partner that related to lesson material.  The open communication style allows the participants to express their views of the communication breakdowns, strategies that could help in the future and often leads to a resolution from the partners to implement strategies that would help in the future. 

As an individual with hearing loss (and who will work with hearing loss for my career), I have my own experience and emotions with the impairment.  While I may have begun my career with a better understanding of the effects of hearing loss on a young adult, I find that I may not understand how hearing loss affects individuals of different ages, upbringings, cultures, etc.  Hearing loss is frustrating because it can have a wide range of effects on any individual.  I appreciated that Living Well with Hearing Loss offered lessons on the effects of hearing loss common to all individuals with the impairment and allowed each participant to interpret the lessons through their personal experience. 

Finally, I find that it takes practice to fully implement the communication strategies covered in the Living Well with Hearing Loss class.  I find myself consciously reminding myself to face the person with hearing loss and controlling my rate of speech because I may have other thoughts on my mind and forgetting these strategies.  Through practice of good communication strategies, such as a controlled rate of speech and walking before we talk, we can make it easier for the individuals with hearing loss to participate in every day life.  By greater participation, these individuals can more fully experience the up and downs that life has to offer.  Human interaction is essential to a healthy emotional state and even the shortest successful conversation can work wonders for a person’s state of mind.